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By Pallavi Singh and Lahari Babu

“Pakistan’s drinking water is extremely alarming. We are in the midst of a major crisis,” says Abdul Khurshid Bhatti, President, and CEO of the Association for Human Development which is based in Hyderabad in the province of Sind, about 1000 km southwest of Lahore. “Even in metropolitan areas where the government distributes water, the water is not pure and contains too many contaminants.” What is alarming is that one PCRT study issued in 2019-20, estimates that every fourth Pakistani has access only to contaminated water. Bhatti adds, “People drink water from canals and open water bodies, which is quite dangerous. People in rural regions do the same thing. We began working on this project in 2006. We started the Nadi filter here in Hyderabad in Sindh province of Pakistan, and it has now grown to provide 3000 households which secure access to pure water.”

So, how do these effective water filtration systems work? How are they different from each other as these water crusaders work in different regions and cultures? Says David Pong, of Singapore, who has worked extensively in the sub-Himalayan regions of Myanmar and Cambodia, about the technology that goes to making his system effective. “A series of hollow fiber membranes enters from the bottom, which is one of the reasons for the technology and how it works. When the gun is pushed up, a vacuum is formed in the center of the pipe, and water is drawn in through a pipe and hose. It’ll get stuck in the center column every time you pull it up. There is a valve that keeps the water from going back into the river or a dug well, once you have pushed it. It passes through a series of membranes at the center of the system. It travels through the membranes, and as it goes laterally, it is compelled to cross the membrane, allowing only clean water to pass through. As a result, germs and viruses are kept out and washed out. This flushing mechanism helps extend the system’s lifetime, allowing the complete system to last for two years before the unit needs a replacement.”

Says Dr. Raj Rajaram, “We must remember to first determine the source and quality of water before settling on a filtration system. Many times, even when the TDS is minimal, people consider RO when it isn’t required. Understanding each filter and the quality requirements it necessitates is crucial, and this positive mindset must be instilled in all users and communities. Carbonation has a lot of potentials, and they need to figure out how to bring in new suppliers that can lower costs and give alternative solutions, as David does. David’s degree of thoroughness and his abilities as a young entrepreneur are exceptional. I hope that more people like him take up the world’s water challenge.”

Says Bhatti, “In the various villages that we work in, in the south of Pakistan, our specialists travel to the communities. The residents of these settlements are impoverished, illiterate, sick, and without possessions. Within 10-15 days, our excerpts determine the water quality and use technology to create filters for them. We educate people and teach them how to do it. I started with 13 filters in the beginning and now have 56. I believe that by now, somebody would have figured out how to use that technology and would have begun creating more. We are happy if others can take the technology and do it wherever they want to.”

The other water veteran who has supplied low-cost filtration systems to over 300,000 households, Chandrasekharan of WatSan, says, “The entire filtration system is constructed out of ceramic. We give local craftspeople the chance to make these pots. Water is filtered with the use of bio-sand filtration. This is plenty to support and feed a family. The bio-sand filter and pottery approach is being pursued by at least 10-15 different firms, However, scalability is a challenge.” Uncannily, Abdul Bhatti does something pretty close to what Chandra does…. Both need support. How can WOW and all the agencies working together help to attract funders and ensure economic sustainability for these organizations? Says Chandra, “With all of their efforts, for example, if the pot is brittle and breaks down, it will be impossible to continue. Perhaps another substance might be used to strengthen the body. A small handle with micro holes in the inside core prevents heavy objects and turbid substances from passing through.”

In conclusion, Chandra speaks for all of these water crusaders, “Technology is designed to be shared, and we want to be able to produce in local pathways with local labor as much as possible to fully localize it. This is important for the local community. It points to local routes. That’s how we’ll be able to make it more effective. This is a global solution while it is local!” He pauses and adds in the context of what the others are doing, “David’s and my products use somewhat different technology. Both are concerned with keeping prices down. And the result is, for the most part, the same. The removal of heavy objects and other items is an extra benefit on the things I offer. The goal of the RO membrane is to totally eliminate any pathogen material. Both may be washed and reused several times.”

Based on excerpts from a conversation at the WOW TechTalk Series. If you want to listen to the entire conversation, please visit this clip.

About the Authors

Pallavi Singh is a Research Associate and Environmental Planner at AltTech.Foundation.

Lahari Babu is an Architecture Student doing her research internship at AltTech.Foundation.

WOW AF is a multi-city citizen-led initiative now in action in four Indian cities of Bengaluru, Chennai, Trichy, Hyderabad, and moving soon to four more cities in the country, and is led by water experts and citizen leaders who seek to bring water efficiency with water-users adopting solutions to meet a Mission Target of Saving 3000 Crore Liters in these cities.

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